Adding a basic, interactive map to your farm website is easy with the wonderful mapping tools that have come out in the last few years. My favorite is the Google Maps package. Have you seen street view (2)?
Google maps makes it easy.
To add an interactive map to your website (like Stargazers Vineyard):
Then you have a nice, interactive map that adds some zip to your farm website.
It is not a convenient truth, but your web site looks different on every monitor, browser, and operating system combination.
When I first released Small Farm Central, I sent out an announcement to the mailing list, was listed on the ATTRA weekly newsletter, and had a news segment in the New Farm magazine, so I was getting decent traffic to the site. I started hearing complaints that the navigation was impossible to use on certain pages and other fairly major problems.
The site looked fine in the browsers I was testing in – Firefox and Internet Explorer (IE). When I finally got to the bottom of the problem, I realized I had the newest version of Internet Explorer installed and the site was badly flawed if viewed under the previous version of IE.
As a web developer, I knew that I should be testing in multiple browsers and configurations, but I allowed myself to make the mistake that if it looked good in one version of Internet Explorer it must look fine in the other versions. Wishful thinking.
It is a tough lesson to truly learn until you have a serious problem like I had when I put the first incarnation of the Small Farm Central site live.
When you use a service like Small Farm Central to develop your website 95% of the necessary testing is completed before you start working with your site, but it is still important to look at your site in different browsers to make sure there are no problems.
It is most important to test your site on as many different browsers as possible. The following image from Wikipedia shows the general distribution of browsers.
Internet Explorer (IE) users are the majority and they are about evenly split between version 6 and version 7, so it is important to test in both versions. Among web developers and web designers IE is known to be the most pernicious of browsers, so be skeptical and test in both versions. To find out what version you are using, click the help menu and then click "About" when you are in the IE browser. Find a friend with the version that you don't have because it is very difficult to have both installed on your computer at once. The services listed later in this article also help you with this.
Arugula’s Star Farm had an issue like this last week because they developed their site using Firefox and as soon as their farm was getting publicity in the local paper they noticed seemingly random fonts and text sizes in different parts of their site. We were able to fix these problems easily when the control panel was opened in Internet Explorer.
If you do not have one of the major browsers installed, you can use one the services below to view you website in multiple operating system and browser configurations. All you have to do is type in the address of your website and it will do all the work for you.
As a person who makes a living with web development, browser testing and the inconsistencies that cause these problems is one of the most frustrating and necessary parts of my work. Testing is never the flashy part of this work, but following up on these details is the difference between having an amateur site and a professional site that brings customers to your farm.
Photo via cyancey
Small Farm Central is off to PASA to present in the tradeshow this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday so be sure to stop by if you will be at the conference.
This is a trip back to my Alma Mater (Penn State University), so it will be nice to have a look around despite the fact that I don't know anyone from my college days who lives there anymore.
I will be back next week with more web marketing discussions. Any specific questions I can help you with? I got a lot of great questions at Eco-farm which definitely helped direct the talk in a way that was more useful for the average farmer. So help guide this blog -- send an email or leave a comment.
I read an article about the wonders of ketchup a number of years ago and I have often thought back to it whenever ketchup comes up in conversation. I was glad to rediscover the article this week and spend a happy half hour retracing old intellectual territory.
My favorite non-fiction reading floats effortlessly between diverse topics and makes unexpected connections between these subjects. For me, this is a very pleasurable experience like discovering little pieces of mind candy; those two topics will be linked for as long as I can remember the story. I'll go beyond my expertise and suggest that because our brains work mainly as pattern matchers, the satisfaction of these connections is a tiny reward from our brain to encourage us to seek out more of these connections. They help us understand our world.
The article, called The Ketchup Conundrum, is a perfect example of this type of writing. We hear about the business of food, the science of taste, and some compelling humans who are passionate about ketchup. Passion is always compelling.
There are some lessons for those of us who market food:
The rise of Grey Poupon proved that the American supermarket shopper was willing to pay more—in this case, $3.99 instead of $1.49 for eight ounces—as long as what they were buying carried with it an air of sophistication and complex aromatics. Its success showed, furthermore, that the boundaries of taste and custom were not fixed: that just because mustard had always been yellow didn't mean that consumers would use only yellow mustard.
Or there is the paragraph that will change your thoughts on ketchup forever:
There are five known fundamental tastes in the human palate: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. Umami is the proteiny, full-bodied taste of chicken soup, or cured meat, or fish stock, or aged cheese, or mother's milk, or soy sauce, or mushrooms, or seaweed, or cooked tomato. "Umami adds body," Gary Beauchamp, who heads the Monell Chemical Senses Center, in Philadelphia, says. "If you add it to a soup, it makes the soup seem like it's thicker—it gives it sensory heft. It turns a soup from salt water into a food." When Heinz moved to ripe tomatoes and increased the percentage of tomato solids, he made ketchup, first and foremost, a potent source of umami. Then he dramatically increased the concentration of vinegar, so that his ketchup had twice the acidity of most other ketchups; now ketchup was sour, another of the fundamental tastes. The post-benzoate ketchups also doubled the concentration of sugar—so now ketchup was also sweet—and all along ketchup had been salty and bitter. These are not trivial issues. Give a baby soup, and then soup with MSG (an amino-acid salt that is pure umami), and the baby will go back for the MSG soup every time, the same way a baby will always prefer water with sugar to water alone. Salt and sugar and umami are primal signals about the food we are eating—about how dense it is in calories, for example, or, in the case of umami, about the presence of proteins and amino acids. What Heinz had done was come up with a condiment that pushed all five of these primal buttons. The taste of Heinz's ketchup began at the tip of the tongue, where our receptors for sweet and salty first appear, moved along the sides, where sour notes seem the strongest, then hit the back of the tongue, for umami and bitter, in one long crescendo. How many things in the supermarket run the sensory spectrum like this?
Well, I'd really like to quote the whole thing, but why don't you just go and read it?
Photo by Est Bleu2007
Thanks to the folks at Eco Farm for inviting me to speak at the conference over the weekend. The talk generated a lot of lively discussion and it seemed like everyone left with at least a few new tips and confidence in their ability to drive their web marketing forward.
The powerpoint file and resource sheet are available for download below if you would like them:
One of the great pleasures of the trip was seeing Thomas Cameron and Billi Davis from Rancho Durazno. That is the farm I worked on for two years to help start their CSA program. I learned so much from both of them about farming and life, so it was great catching up and sharing the weekend with them.
Billi Davis, Simon Huntley, and Thomas Cameron
It was a pleasant surprise to meet the folks from Butte Mountain Organic Farm who have been members of Small Farm Central for a while. I got the following picture with a new member, Glen from Mother Flight Farm in Washington state.
Farmers united by Small Farm Central.
The rain cleared on Saturday for the drive back to San Francisco, so I took the coastal road. Maybe slower, but what a gorgeous drive past artichoke farms, fields hugging the ocean, and ragged beaches.
A coastal view between Monterey and San Francisco.
Small Farm Central is taking a trip to Pacific Grove, CA for the Eco Farm conference at the end of this week (Jan. 23-26).
On Friday, I am giving a talk on web marketing for farms. This will not be a advertisement for Small Farm Central, just a general overview of how and why to get your farm online.
Here is the description listed in the program for the talk:
Tending Technology: How to Market your Farm with New Media
The Internet can be intimidating, confusing and time consuming, but a website can be an amazing asset to your farm. New media can save time, increase your visibility in the community, create paths for communication during the off-season, and encourage contact between farm customers. Learn quick and easy techniques for successful Internet marketing with email mailing lists, websites, e-commerce, and farm blogs. Find out how tending technology can take your farm to a new level.
Presenter: Simon Huntley, Small Farm Central, Pittsburgh, PA.
I will also have a table in the tradeshow, so be sure to stop by for a chat if you will be at the conference.
[The local food movement is meant] to encourage local food production, stop suburban sprawl and support traditions that are dying and entrepreneurs who are creating. Take it as far as you can. Don't bust a gut if you have to crack open a jar of imported capers. Think twice before eating the cherries from South America in the winter. Eat more tomatoes when the days are long and more greens and root vegetables in the winter.
This parrots almost exactly how I feel about local food. I eat from the local CSA, visit the farmer's market, and grow some food of my own, but I enjoy food, cooking, and life too much to worry about each morsel that enters my mouth.
In this sense, I can understand the backlash on local food. The loudest localvores are shouting and for them it is a symbol of status to find the rarest local cheese, the most obscure heirloom vegetable, or the most infantile baby greens. It comes off as little artificial and shouted a decibel too loud.
Maybe I am too passive in my support of local and sustainable, thinking that the obvious benefits of this mode of eating will gradually seep out to the general population. Perhaps the superlatives need to be shouted. We probably need the Michael Moores of the local food movement to move it forward.
The balance between action and dialog is difficult for me to find.
I do know that I will continue my own version of localvorism that includes a take-out pizza garnished with a home-canned pickle and washed down with the local brew.
How do you eat local?
Seth Godin recently wrote a terse response to the question, "What did you do to improve your web marketing in 2007?"
"I showed up.Underrated, but important."
I was talking to Small Farm Central member last week who told me that the website exceeded expectations in the first six months of use, that customers love the site, and that he felt an increased connection to the customers. That isn't necessarily news, but the way he told me this surprised me. I got the impression that he was forced into a website by the powers that be, but now found himself on other end being quite pleased that he made the jump. Many farmers feel like they should have a website because it shows professionalism and they have heard it will help draw new customers, but it sounds like a drag on top of all the other tasks that are directly related to making a farm work.
I understand that constraint from first-hand experience and that is the reason I am bringing Small Farm Central to the community. Now it is simple and not intimidating to get your farm website started. Just choose a domain name (ie www.yourfarm.com) and within a day or two you can start writing your pages, uploading photos, and more. Do a little bit each week throughout the end of the winter and you will find yourself with a great site by the beginning of the season.
What can happen by the end of 2008 if you "show up" online? Maybe you will make sales with an e-commerce system, gain new customers through Google searches, create new alliances in the community, write a blog that will make you think about your farming enterprise in a different way or grow existing customer relationships. I can tell you that a little effort and a little patience goes a long way in web marketing.
SPIN-Farming™ Teams Up with Small Farm Central
PHILADELPHIA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--SPIN-Farming, (www.spinfarming.com) has teamed up with Small Farm Central (www.smallfarmcentral.com) to provide ready-to-go websites that connect farmers with customers quickly, easily and inexpensively.
“SPIN-Farming calls for cultivating customers as well as crops, and that calls for a professional-looking web site,” says Wally Satzewich, the developer of the SPIN-Farming system. “But most farmers would rather deal with buggy potato plants than buggy software. Small Farm Central frees farmers to be out working their plots instead of sitting behind a computer trying to program their web sites.”
The SPIN-branded web sites can include everything “soup to nuts”, from photo galleries to blogs to recipes to mailing lists, but farmers can start out simply and add features as they see the need. No technical experience is necessary to run their sites on Small Farm Central.
“SPIN-Farming is helping to eliminate the traditional hardships of farming and is redefining it as an entrepreneurially-driven profession,” says Roxanne Christensen, Co-author of the SPIN-Farming online learning series. “It is only natural to be working with Small Farm Central to eliminate the complexities of web site development and help farmers harness the power of technology for direct marketing. Plus, Small Farm Central is in a great position to know what is working for farmers online, and they generously offer free tips and advice at their site.”
“Whether they farm in the middle of an urban jungle, on the suburban fringe, or as part of a large acreage in the country, each SPIN farmer’s story is a powerful online marketing tool. We at Small Farm Central understand their stories, and help them tell it, engage with their customers, and sell more through professional, active websites that promote the farmer-eater connection,” says Simon Huntley, Lead Developer of Small Farm Central.
S-mall P-lot IN-tensive (SPIN) Farming is a non-technical, easy-to-understand-and inexpensive-to-implement farming system that makes it possible to generate $50,000+ in gross sales from a half-acre by growing common vegetables. It is organic-based and can be practiced on a single plot or multi-sited on several residential backyards or front lawns in urban or peri-urban areas. It is available via an online learning series at www.spinfarming.com.
ABOUT SMALL FARM CENTRAL
Small Farm Central provides inexpensive, professional web services to farmers across the country. An online control panel that farmers can access at any time takes the mystery out of farm websites and makes it a breeze to sell products, publish a blog, post photos, and more. Information about the Small Farm Central SPIN web service can be found at: http://smallfarmcentral.com/spin/welcome.
This part 2 of the Successful Farm Email Lists series.
Everyone who uses email has sent out a broadcast email to friends or family by separating each address with a comma or semi-colon. This might work for personal use, but as your list grows using the techniques described in part 1 of this series you need a more professional solution because you do not want to expose your email list to each member and your emails will be blocked as spam.
This is not something you can do on your own unless you are willing to dive into the minutia of web programming; I think for most farmers, farming is enough of a challenge! There are many providers who can help you move your email strategy to more professional realm.
Constant contact is one of the popular email marketing services for small businesses. For $15/month, the services allows you to market your farm to 500 email address or $30/month for up to 2,500 addresses; see more pricing information here. One very nice feature with this service is that it makes templates available that help you spruce up each email you send.
Newfarm.org published an article last year on one farmer's experience using PHPlist through their web host. This is an open-source software that you must install on your webserver if you are running your own website, though some hosts offer the service free. When you are deciding on a host for your farm website, ask them what extra software packages they offer with their hosting plans: PHPlist may be part of the deal. I have worked with PHPlist in the past and found the interface to be a bit confusing, but if you remember that this is free software and you are willing to put some time into learning the program it will work well for you.
Zookoda is a free service for blog writers to integrate emails into their marketing approach. The service summarizes the posts on your blog over a specified period of time and then sends a broadcast email to everyone that has opted in to your email list. I write often about farm blogging here at Small Farm Central and this could be a good way to integrate blogging with emailing for your less tech-savvy audience.
Small Farm Central includes a simple, but robust email sending system. Visitors sign up for your email list through your website and their address is added to your email database. The control panel allows you to compose your email using the rich text editor and send it to your entire list; the emails will look like they were sent directly from your email address to the recipient. This ensures that your list will not be exposed to each member. The Small Farm Central software takes your composed email and sends each one singularly to each recipient, something that would take hours to do manually! This service comes bundled with the basic Small Farm Central site.
Next time in the successful email list series, I will discuss how often to send emails, what to write in them, and how to integrate the emails with your website marketing strategy.
Photo by DTL